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How Many Will Follow?
By: James Smith
Here is a question every leader of people asks himself/herself at one time or another.
When Jesus looked out over the masses who followed him, I wonder if He asked himself this same question. As He counted, in His mind, the healings and considered all who he helped, I wonder if he pondered how many would come after him.
Of course they would follow him to the next miracle. They would follow Him to the next free dinner. They would be there to hear him preach again, but would they follow him all the way to the cross.
People are fickle. Have you noticed this? It doesn't take much to turn their heads. You can spend all your energy helping them and teaching them, but when something/someone flashier comes along, off they go
It's no wonder we are likened to sheep in the scriptures. Sheep are wanderers. If the shepherd is not watchful, his sheep will simply wander off. They don't mean to leave the shepherd really. They just found a patch of grass that is greener and so off they go.
I look at the ministry of Jesus and I am dumfounded at the throngs of people he could gather. So many on the sea shore that he would have to launch out on a boat to talk to them. Thousands were there the day he multiplied the little boys lunch. They pressed against him. They cried out to him from the edges of the crowds. They climbed into trees to see him. They tore the roof off of houses to get to where He was at. Yet I believe he had one question in His mind every time he saw them press in. "How many will follow?"
Each time you get in front of the group you minister to, do you ask yourself this question? How many will follow me? How many will live the way I teach? How many will stay strong to the faith? How many will be saved?
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You run the meetings – Never let anyone but you or someone you desire, to run a meeting. If they take the platform, shut them down. Don’t let them take over the meeting. Never walk into a meeting without knowing the direction and result that the meeting will bring.
Know the trouble makers past – Find out what makes that person tick. Why are they the way they are? Knowing more about them will enable you to understand why they feel the way they feel about things and enable you to change them.
Share your vision with others before your critic gets the opportunity to share theirs. These are busy little people and they work hard at spreading their opinions. Work harder! Have coffee meetings where you tell others your dreams and vision. Go to congregants homes unexpectedly (As your critics do.) and open your heart to them.
Be confident. No one wants a sissy for a Pastor. (Sorry if that sounds demeaning, but I’ve seen some.) Don’t be bullied. Be strong. Know your calling. Walk tall. Square your shoulders. Lead! People will follow. You may lose some critics along the way, (Let them go!) but you will gain a congregation who will follow you into revival.[ read more...]
I marveled as I observed each presentation. The goals were impressive, and every presenter received accolades at the conclusion of each delivery. It was an annual goal setting and calendar planning session. It was expected that I would be impressed. When everyone was finished the pastor asked me if I had any questions for the various department leaders now that the presentations were finished. I did have a few.
“How many people on your team or in each department have any clue as to what you just presented? As the department leader did any of you create these presentations on your own and without the input of your team? Were any of these presentations simply modifications to last years? Did anyone achieve what was proposed to do last year? How do you hold yourselves accountable to attaining these goals? Do you or they know how you are going to accomplish these goals? How do your goals support the goals of the other departments? Are the goals of every department mutually supporting one common church vision? Are the goals of any one department pulling in a separate direction and counteracting the goals of another? Did the church develop its vision first and then have every department develop goals that are essential in order to reach the vision? Are your goals self-serving or do they benefit everyone else? Are any departments competing for people, calendar time, resources or talents in order to achieve your goals? How do you intend to measure these goals in order to track them? What data did you use in order to set your goals? Does anybody know exactly where this church is heading and what its vision is?”
These were just a few of the questions I asked. Surprisingly nobody had answers for any of these questions.
I then told them a true story. Recently my wife and were stopped at a traffic light. A Day Care Center was located on the corner and we observed over twenty children and a few teachers having a car wash. It was hilarious! Each child had on a little yellow T-shirt with the Day Care Center logo emblazoned proudly across the front. They were running, chasing each other, and expending a lot of energy. It looked like a swarm of little bees humming around. One little boy was chasing some girls with a soapy sponge. Another was spraying his friends with the water hose. There was a cacophony of screaming and laughter in the air. We both laughed at the sight of the people actually doing all of the work. The teachers were washing the cars and trying in vain to get everyone to cooperate with them.[ read more...]
I am the second born in a family of five siblings. My older brother is a little less than two years older than me. While growing up, I can remember my mother dressing me exactly like my older brother. This happened quite frequently, especially while we were young. I remember people asking her if we were twins. I thought that was really strange since I was two years younger, smaller and did not look like my brother at all. (I am better looking) Then my twin sisters were born. Identical twins. They were the cutest little girls. They looked exactly alike. Even until recently their husbands have mistaken their identity. This has led to many interesting moments in our family.
I don't know what mom was thinking, but after the twins were born the matching outfit thing became more regular. I caught up to my brother quickly in size and for a number of years it actually looked like there were two sets of twins in the family. I admit it probably looked cool to have two sets of twins. We drew a lot of attention from people in churches, restaurants and malls. Everywhere we went, people would crowd around the 'church twins'. They thought it was cute, but it was actually an identity crisis times two.
As I grew older, I did not appreciate being dressed like my brother, and he felt the same way. It wasn't so cool anymore. We weren't twins and were not anything alike. I didn't want to be like my brother and he didn't want to be like me. In fact, we wanted to be as different from one another as possible. My twin sisters came to feel the same way. Thankfully, mom gave up on the 'two sets of twins' thing and our unique identities were preserved.
We live in a world today of 'identity crisis times two'. Everybody wants to be like somebody else. Look like somebody else. Talk like somebody else. Live like somebody else. It is no different in the church. It is part of man's nature. We want to preach like somebody else. Sing like somebody else. Build a church like somebody else. Inherently, we look to others successes and desire the same for ourselves.[ read more...]
A few years ago, I hired a man to work for me who was from Africa. His family had brought him to the United States and he was in need of job skills. My small painting company was a great place for him to learn a trade. Frances was a pure joy to work with. He was happy every day. He would sing beautifully as he worked and often expressed his appreciation to me for giving him a job. He was fun and often told funny jokes. He was always ready for work on time. His attitude was perfect. However, I had to fire him.
Frances did not understand the value of time. One day he would paint 30 doors, the next day he would paint 2. After speaking to the family member who was his sponsor to the US, she told me that in Africa, time is of little value. She said, “people where he came from do not place a value on time. If something did not get done today, that’s ok, it can get done tomorrow.” Unfortunately, we in the US do not and cannot look at time this way. I knew how much Frances’s time was worth not only to him, but also to me. As his employer, I had to cause Frances to improve his time to show a profit or I would lose money on each job he did for me. Frances was unable to change his way of thinking regarding time and as a result I had to let him go.
The Bible itself begins with a reference of time, “In the beginning”. Time has always been important to God. A reading of the early chapters of Genesis shows God creating the world as sequential event. Christ Himself did not come to this world until His time was fulfilled and when it was time, he returned to glory. Time is important to God, and it should be important to His ministers.
Some people view time like Frances did. It simply did not matter. “Didn’t do it today? That’s ok, do it tomorrow.” The fact of the matter is, we only have one life. We are only allowed so many days, hours, minutes and seconds in this life. At some appointed second in time we will pass from this life.[ read more...]
New Pastors often make elementary mistakes when they assume the pastorate of a church. Even though you’re now the pastor, you’re still the “new kid on the block.” Listed are some strategies to employ during the first year of your new pastorate.
- Earn confidence by showing competence in decision-making.
- Focus on people first – programs second.
- Make no major changes the first year.
- Promote health through loving the people.
- Tackle the most critical problems one at a time – line them up single file.
- Respect culture – each church has its unique history.
In The Holy War by John Bunyan we find that for Prince Emmanuel to take back the city of Mansoul, he will go through the same gates that Diabolus took advantage of. In the first part, there were a listing of four of the captains and their first lieutenants who were assigned to go after the gates. From the analogy that Bunyan uses, these four men were preachers who were specifically going to gain a foothold in the Ear Gate.
The first captain is Captain Boanerges along with aide, Mr. Thunder. They all wore black and the insignia on their uniforms was three lightning bolts. They led a company of ten thousand men. Obviously, Bunyan gets his word picture from the description of James and John who were referred to as the Sons of Thunder by the Lord. They were men who appealed to the authority aspect of ministry.
For Mansoul to be redeemed, the gates will have to be stormed with authority. This brings up the question as to where a preacher gets his authority. This is not the contrived and manipulative power that comes from spiritual abuse but rather it is an authority that confronts the issue of sin and points to the way of redemption. For this kind of authority to come to a preacher’s life there are some key components that will have to be incorporated.
Before going further, here are the words spoken by Captain Boanerges:
Be it known unto you, O unhappy and rebellious Mansoul, that the most gracious King, the great King Shaddai, my Master, hath sent me unto you with a commission (and so he showed to the town his broad seal) to reduce you to his obedience; and he hath commanded me, in case you yield upon my summons, to carry it to you as if you were my friends or brethren; but he also hath bid , that if, after the summons to submit, you still stand out and rebel, we should endeavor to take you by force.
First, he will have to be a man who has an absolute confidence in the authority of the Scriptures. This means that he will have to believe that Scripture as we have it today is infallible (2 Timothy 3:16-17), inerrant (Psalm 12:6; 19:7-11; 119:140), authoritative (Psalm 119:89), and sufficient (2 Timothy 3:17). For the lightning bolts to be able to thunder from a pulpit, the man who is standing in that pulpit must have the belief that what he is preaching is literally the words of God.
Second, he will have to be a man who unwaveringly preaches those Scriptures. This means that a preacher ought to make a commitment to preaching through the whole of the Scriptures. He cannot afford to take a hodge-podge approach to preach here and there and cherry pick the texts that come to his mind but rather to make a commitment to work through books of the Bible and make them useful for the edification and equipping of the saints (Ephesians 4:12-14). We will have to clearly mark the thought that however the Word is handled in the pulpit will be the way the Word is handled by those who hear us. If you place a high priority on the Word, you shall discover that over time, the congregation will place a high priority on the Word also.[ read more...]
"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" (Romans 3:23)
The colonel was trying to get a convoy of trucks out of the battle zone. The trucks had been under siege by the enemy and there had been terrible wounds and deaths that had occurred. They had to get out of there if they were going to survive. The colonel went to the lead truck where the driver had been killed and pulled the body out. Then he turned to a Sergeant and told him to drive the truck out of there. The sergeant responded that he had been shot and therefore wouldn't be able to drive, to which the colonel replied, "We've all been shot! Now drive the truck."
When I first heard this story told from the book Black Hawk Down, immediately I thought of the church and what happens there or, for the case of this article, what doesn't happen because we allow ourselves to make excuses.
We all have a person, or maybe even a few people, in our church that are ready and willing to do whatever it is that we ask of them. Whether it be cleaning the restrooms, mowing the lawn, greeting everyone that enters the church, teaching home bible studies, teaching Sunday School, etc., they will do it. You know who I'm talking about. They never stop asking you if you have something that they can do. They are always the first to greet you after service. They seem like they are always there. These people are great and wonderful to have in our congregation. When you ask them to do something you never have to worry about it getting done, because they have a desire to be used for the Kingdom. However, these people are usually few in number.[ read more...]
In a recent study of church growth, the following factors and strategies were noticed as being utilized in growing churches while churches that were declining were not using these principles.
1. Reach out to Newcomers. Focusing on the needs and concerns of newcomers, making inquiry convenient and non-threatening, and allowing people to move at their own pace, characterized the growing churches.
2. Build Member Commitment. While reaching newcomers is most important, the growing churches expected much of members, and active involvement of everyone was sought.
3. Train and Involve Laity. There was always a bold, compelling vision for the congregation’s future as well as ways of equipping and deploying laity drawn to the vision for ministry.
4. Make Bold Plans. Churches with goals and dreams far beyond current ministries and resources were more likely to grow than other churches, all other things being equal.[ read more...]
Dr. Fred Childs is a leading church consultant, organizational development expert, and leadership authority. He and Monica reside in Pearland, Texas.
There is the most remarkable story of selfless sacrifice in I Samuel 23. I had never really paused to consider the irony of this story until recently. It came to me at a time when I needed it the most.
On a recent day, weary from the battle, I was having my own little pity party. I was questioning why had I given myself so fully to the work of God and to helping others, only to feel so unappreciated by some who perhaps didn’t understand me? I was feeling somewhat like Elijah must have felt when he thought he was the only prophet that God had left, only to hear God tell him that he had seven thousand others whom Elijah was not even cognizant of. Elijah was immediately transformed from a minority of one to a member of a great multitude of brethren who could relate to his dilemma. Elijah was not alone. Many had experienced the same feelings while adhering to the same values as he.
As I was wrestling with this internal struggle I had a phone conversation with a pastor friend in another state. As we talked he reminded me of the story of David at Keilah, and the words of my friend began to minister to my wounded heart. I knew by what he was saying that he not only understood my situation, but he had been there and back again.
In the aforementioned Bible story David received word that Keilah, a city in Judah, was under attack from the Philistines. The Philistines were robbing their threshingfloors. When David enquired of the Lord he was directed to go and deliver the city from the Philistines. His men were wary because King Saul was after David, and Keilah was a natural trap. David enquired again of the Lord and was told to go fight and the Philistines would be delivered into his hands.
David obeyed the Lord and delivered the city. While he was and actually doing the will of God, King Saul heard about his presence at Keilah. Saul said, “God has delivered him into my hand,” because Keilah was a city that was enclosed by gates and bars. King Saul thought David was trapped, and that it was God’s will for him to overtake David.[ read more...]